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We recently did an informal, and terribly unscientific poll on Twitter asking South Africans which of the following foods make them feel a little sick at just the thought of them. A few individuals mentioned that they actually enjoy most of these foods, which got us thinking – Why do we enjoy the tastes of some foods and not others, and why does that change as we get older?
Here is the top list of gross foods, in no particular order:
– Fresh coriander
– Blue Cheese
– Brussels sprouts
– Goat’s cheese
– Tinned tuna
There are a few reasons that can determine whether we find a food yum or yuck! The psychology of food is a strong factor, specifically if you have a strong happy (or negative) memory from your childhood associated with a specific food. This is the reason that when we are stressed or tired, we reach for comforting foods from our childhood such as mac ‘n cheese or chocolate ice cream. It is a similar reason why some of us can’t stand the smell of tequila!
There are a few biological tricks happening in our brains too, a relic from the days when taste was an important way to determine if a food was poisonous or rotten. Foods with strong bitter flavours such as olives, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts or broccoli are often distasteful to us, and most especially as young children.
As we age, our taste and smell receptors can become less sensitive. This is the reason that foods with strong flavours such as blue cheese or anchovies that were once very overwhelming, may now be more palatable as an adult.
The best way to enjoy new foods? The answer is simple: exposure. Trying new flavours, or revisiting ones that you haven’t tried in a few years is a great way to gradually introduce new foods onto your shopping list.